First, a little business. Our office computer problems are not 100% fixed, but we do have a nice work-around. Keep an eye on your e-mails for communication from DWF, and get back to us quickly and politely. Given a choice between two equally good movies, where one filmmaker is hard to deal with, and the other is a delight – who would you go with?
There is a saying in theatre that drama is just a breath away from comedy. It's the difference between laughing with a comedy and laughing at a drama. One sure way to cross that line is to have your film push the seriousness of everything. If your cast project the attitude of, "look what an important movie I'm in," then hilarity will ensue. If you do the big dramatic cut to the big dramatic look on the totally dramatic actor, then you are not making a drama. In fact, I often find myself saying to the screen when the filmmaker gets too serious too quickly, "Please be funny! Please be funny!" If they turn it all into a joke, then they are my new best friends.
We had a couple of dramatic dramas last night that didn't make any friends. Remember drama, like pauses and monologues, must be earned. Don't tell us to care, make us care.
We did have some understated, humble dramas, that generated the kind of silence among screeners that is the best of complements. One in particular had us all ready to join a cult, then hip-checked us back into reality. Good on ya!
But the overall theme of the night in my screening room was – WTF!? After watching two or three movies in a row that made absolutely no sense, one of our screeners quoted GarryMarshall, "Please, just tell us a story." I don't think there has ever been better, more concise, filmmaking advice than that. Just tell a story. If you do that, then you know you're on a solid foundation. From there, you can build what kind of story you're telling and the way you're telling it.
Yes, I know there are schools of thought that experiment with Jackson Pollock style "remove the artist from the equation" ... stuff (to be polite). I've had arguments with modern dancers who talk about "movement for movement's sake" or "moving sculpture," and to them I say, "If a girl comes out and dances, I want to know who she is and why she's dancing. If she's joined by another dancer, I want to know what the relationship is between the two."
It's human nature. We are animals who have a deep need to tell and hear stories. Why is it that artists will insist that their salads be all organic, but they turn their work into some kind of freak of nature?
So, please, do like the Wise Old Man of Hollywood says. Just tell us a story.